We enter the second week of the pro-football season, and I have to make a decision: To watch or not to watch.
Like any red-blooded American male, sporting the mangled Y-chromosome that defines malehood, I cannot easily resist armored behemoths in a demolition derby of sinews and ligaments, with the prize being lifelong damage from accumulated concussions.
(A confession here: I am really a baseball fan, so my interest now is whether the Red Sox will be able to hold on, or whether they will collapse in the next few weeks. I care rather less about the NFL.)
I watch football, though, it’s just that I cannot justify the time wasted doing so. It is something like an addiction and just as fruitless and just as absurd.
After all, the game really can be summed up, as my wife says, as “he runs with the ball, he throws the ball, he falls down with the ball.” There isn’t much else that happens. Oh, yes, there is quite a bit of measuring.
Not that much happens to fill up that three-and-a-half hours on TV that a game takes. And, as a recent experiment on my part proves, even those things don’t happen much.
I timed a game.
What I actually did was record the game and play it back with a stopwatch in hand, fast-forwarding through the chaff, timing everything from each snap of the ball to the referee’s whistle ending each play.
To my utter amazement, three minutes and 25 seconds into the experiment, the gun sounded on the first quarter. Whoa, that was a rush.
In the three hours-plus that the game would have eaten up of my Sunday afternoon, there was exactly 14 minutes and six seconds worth of actual playing time.
The rest was huddling, timeouts, zebras in confabulation, replays, reverse-angles, ex-jocks analyzing the fine points of the left tackle’s trap block and, most importantly, beer commercials with pneumatic women.
I have tried to go cold turkey. Last season I went 11 weeks into the NFL season before watching a game. I was a more productive member of society; I felt righteous.
But I finally caved in, sneaking a bit of a Giants-Redskins game. I watched till the end of the season.
This year so far, I have only watched one half of one game. I am hoping to avoid the steroidal monkey on my back.
But I have also found a way to enjoy the game without wasting my time waiting three hours for those few minutes of actual football: I have learned to dilute my drug of choice. I now put the game on and turn the sound off. I put some Brahms or Stravinsky on the stereo and I sit down in my favorite chair with the Sunday paper. I read, I listen, and when the ball is snapped, I can look up at the screen and catch all the action. And I mean all the action. It’s a great way to get something done and see those 14 minutes and six seconds that actually count.